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Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics$
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Wm. Theodore de Bary

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153973

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153973.001.0001

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(p.72) 5 Laozi
Finding Wisdom in East Asian Classics

Franciscus Verellen

Columbia University Press

This chapter analyzes the Laozi, a short collection of aphorisms that probably took shape in the fourth century bce The Laozi constitutes one of the most challenging, intriguing, and influential sets of propositions put forward in the history of both Chinese philosophy and religion. The chapter first considers the Laozi legend in antiquity. The main elements of the ancient legend are as follows: the real name of Laozi, to whom several early texts also refer as Lao Dan, was Li Er or Li Dan. He was a native of Huxian in the state of Chu, not far from modern Boxian (Anhui), and the site has been officially revered as Laozi's birthplace since Han times. He is said to have served as curator of archives under the Eastern Zhou (770–256) in Luoyang. The remainder of the chapter discusses Laozi as mystic, classical Daoism, and Laozi in medieval thought and religion.

Keywords:   Laozi, aphorisms, Chinese philosophy, religion, mystic, Daoism, medieval thought

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